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White wins ‘Grandparent of the Year’ essay contest

Makayla White, pictured with her great-grandfather, Jack Garrett, won both her county and region's essay contests with her paper on Garrett.
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Adair County Elementary School fifth grader Makayla White has been named the winner of both the Adair County and the Mid-Cumberland Retired Teachers Association essay winner for the 2021-2022 school year. This year’s essay topic was “Grandparent of the Year.”

The contest is sponsored by AARP Kentucky and the Kentucky Retired Teacher Association (KRTA).

Makayla is among thousands of fifth graders who participated in the 20th annual essay competition for 2021–2022. Student submitted essays answering why “My Grandparent should be the AARP Kentucky Grandparent of the Year” to their fifth grade teachers, who selected the school’s winner. Each participating school winner and school receive recognition certificates and Makayla also received a $25 check.

Makayla’s essay was then sent to the Mid-Cumberland Retired Teachers Association (MCRTA) where it was recognized as the outstanding essay in the (MCRTA). Makayla will receive a plaque and $50 in recognition of this honor.

Makayla’s essay is eligible for participation in the state finals. In a recognition ceremony the “Grandparent of the Year” and student are honored at the Annual KRTA Convention in Louisville. The state winner also receives a $100 award and a plaque.

The essay competition is a unique way to recognize the significant contributions that older Kentuckians make towards shaping the lives and values of youth across the Commonwealth. Across the country and in Kentucky, an increasing number of adults 50 and over are the primary caregivers to minor children. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 98,000 children in Kentucky are being raised by or living with a grandparent householder.

The “AARP Grandparent of the Year” essay contest is organized by local retired teachers associations, who help secure local school participation, promote the activity, and serve as local contest judges.

Makayla is the daughter of Joey and Elizabeth White. Makayla wrote her essay about her Great Grandfather Jack Garrett. Jack was a star athlete at Corbin High School who went on to play collegiately before earning his degree from Eastern Kentucky University. Jack played with a professional basketball and baseball team called the House of David. While playing basketball, Jack traveled and played exhibition games against the Harlem Globetrotters all around the world. He later went on to teach and coach basketball at Pulaski County High School before moving to Adair County.

White’s full essay is below:

A Grandparent of the Year should be wise, funny, talkative, and caring. My great-grandpa is all of these things. His name is Jack Garrett, but I call him Papaw. Papaw is 95 years of age. He is from Corbin, Kentucky, but lives here in Columbia.

Papaw Jack loves the lake and also to fish and camp. 

Because of his age he is not able to get out as much or to do these things as well as he used to. We still always celebrate his birthday at the lake so that he will have a chance to enjoy the water and be outdoors.

My grandpa knows a lot because he reads all the time. He mainly reads about presidents and history. Papaw likes to tell me about his history even though sometimes I can’t tell if they are true stories or not. For example he told Carter, my older brother, and I a story about Bonnie and Clyde, but I’m not going to get into too much detail because he said not to tell anyone!

One of the most interesting things Papaw talks about is about him playing sports. He played basketball, baseball, and football in high school. When he got older he played professional basketball. His team, the House of David, went all the way to Germany to play against the Harlem Globetrotters. He was also on an exhibition baseball team. They went out on the field during the 7th inning stretch of major league baseball games and performed silly tricks.

For instance, they might have hit the ball and run the bases backwards or throw the ball between their legs to make an out. Speaking of silly things, Papaw is very silly himself. Every time I go to his house he pretends to be asleep. Next, he acts like he doesn’t know my name. Then, he asks me where mamaw is, even though she’s right there. Finally, he says he is going to school and will take the teacher an apple.

Papaw always asks me questions such as, “how’s school going,” “what’s Carter been up to,” or “are you still playing basketball?” After I answer his questions and we talk for a while, he will tell me all of the different things he did when he was a kid than what we do now. Things sure were different in the 1930s! Talking with Papaw has made me realize that things can change very suddenly.

As I mentioned earlier a Grandparent of the Year should be wise, funny, talkative, and caring. Papaw is wise because he has lived a long life and reads a lot about history. He is funny because he tells us silly stories and plays tricks on us. He is caring because he always asks me questions about my life and likes to talk with me about it. If you ever had a chance to meet him yourself you would understand why I think he should be the Grandparent of the Year.

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.